Rockets go 0-2 in another lost week; immediate future does not look great

James Harden might not be in uniform this week. Kevin C. Cox

The Rockets struggles continued in the second week if the NBA season, as they dropped both contests in an embarrassing fashion. Houston's problems weren't limited to the box score, as reigning MVP James Harden pulled up late in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's contest with hamstring tightness. The Rockets are now 1-4, last in the Southwest Division, and 13th in the Western Conference.

Game Four: Rockets vs Utah Jazz (L, 100-89)

Houston entered its Tuesday game injury riddled and without starting point guard Chris Paul, who was serving out the second half of his two-game suspension. Harden would lead the charge as the Rockets jumped out to a 29-24 lead after one, but poor defense, a lights-out effort from Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, and an uncharacteristically bad shooting performance from guard Eric Gordon resulted in the Jazz outscoring the Rockets 28-15 in the second quarter. A sluggish pace and sloppy basketball would continue through most of the second half until Harden checked in in the fourth to key a late game run. Houston would trim the Jazz lead to within five, but a tweaked hamstring sent Harden to the locker room. With the air let out of the building, the Jazz pounced and cruised to a victory. Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, while Mitchell scorched Houston’s defense for 38.

Game Five: Rockets vs Los Angeles Clippers (L, 133-113)

Friday’s contest against the Clippers looked to be the one the Rockets would be able to use to get back on track. With Chris Paul returning from suspension and Carmelo Anthony slotted into the starting rotation the Rockets started off strong defensively, but a miserable offensive effort kept the Clippers in the lead. Carmelo Anthony’s brilliant season high 24 points weren’t nearly enough to combat the Rockets’ 38% team field goal percentage, and the Clippers exploited the Houston’s thin front court to run away with the victory. Former Rocket Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers off the bench with 30 points.

Takeaways and Notes:

Eric Gordon is off to a miserable start: Through five games, Gordon is 9-39 from three and has only converted 26-80 total field goals. For a team that was missing Chris Paul and is now without Harden, the Rockets need Gordon to step up and it simply hasn’t happened. He should eventually heat back up, but this slump couldn’t come at a worse time.

Reinforcements are on their way: Forward Marquese Chriss and Zhou Qi are expected back at practice early this week. Monday’s practice will be used to determine whether or not they’re ready to be reintegrated into the rotation in time for Tuesday’s contest against Portland. Harden should be back later in the week as well, but I expect the Rockets to exercise extreme caution with the face of the franchise.

Halloween might be eventful: If a Jimmy Butler trade happens anytime soon, there’s a good chance it could happen on Wednesday. The prevailing thought process is because the Rockets would be able to add recent trade acquisitions Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss to any trade package at that point.

Looking ahead

The Rockets host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday before heading out on the road against the Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls on Friday and Saturday. With the current state of the Rockets as it is and Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard leading the league with 33.8 points per game, it’s very hard to envision anything other than another blowout Tuesday. Brooklyn could be where the Rockets stop the bleeding and notch their second win, while Chicago looks like a toss up. Until the Rocket prove that the can stop their opponents from scoring in the interior, I just don’t see sunny days in the near future. I predict a 1-2 week.


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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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